go now, drink coffee and write well. the morning is half gone, gray, i have nothing to write, but push on anyway. i left my windows rolled down (on my soul) last night, it rained. ha. may is crumbling beneath my feet. the waitress smiles and is refreshingly honest about her sadness, one hair curled up lovely just behind her ear, it’s enough beauty for me. coffee, rye toast, each bite a savior. i think of america, all i have is my smile and you want that too? you don’t know happy. are you the reason for my sadness? shellac. pissing into a brown toilet, i wash my hands with luxury foaming hand cleaner. luxury foaming america. quote of the day, “nothing.” the sea is churning in the distance, craig looks up from his coffee, knows i’m thinking of him, then i remember poppies blooming along a chain link fence in the east bottoms. the ground fits right up against the sky, thunderstorms.
& a handful of blueberries.
i think of you as i eat them.
kyema, craig on the mountaintop,
wondering, is this music or no music,
sane in a mad world, a postcard,
crush of silence.
bell street, ignacio half awake w/cigarette
looking at the women and then back down,
handsome, sad hero of midtown, secret music,
crush of silence.
I saw him driving
an old beat toronado
on I-29 just north
of Kansas City, Missouri.
He seemed to be talking
to himself or maybe he
was seeing ghosts too,
maybe Jeffers riding shotgun,
Hamsun & Celine in the back.
I followed for a while,
probably followed too close
as I tried to make out his profile.
Finally I passed & when I got even
I decided not to look, instead
I hit the gas and pulled away.
After I had gotten by him, I looked
in the rear view mirror & all I could see
was a fat white middle finger pressed
up against the cracked windshield.
I laughed as i pulled away, thinking
“I knew it was you, you old bastard.”
& no matter
i always survive
but the nights
when i dream you
in those dreams
i always die.
It’s not getting better, in fact it’s worse, so much worse. The peddlers offer more and more at a greater cost. A color tv as big as a wall with internet and a pay service that offers every movie and show ever made so that you don’t even notice your baby is born with a crooked spine. And there are so many things that will cost you a lung these days that polyvinyl cups and wash and wear suits are the least of your worries. The frozen dinners are still here and fast food too so now you’re fat with cancer and diabetes. Then the bank dangles a deal and takes your house in the suburbs and the job at the plastic factory has been sent overseas, so there’s no place to work and every city is smog city and the bank has your house for sale under that yellow sky, but you can’t afford to buy it back so you’re living in your car and you sold the tv, the cups and the suits for a little money to get you by but you’re not getting by and you’re not going to. And one more thing Marge, you’re right, there isn’t any fine print, there’s large print, it’s on billboards and television and the internet and it all reads the same, you lose.
Dirk Ashly Knoedler
A letter to Marge Piercy in response to her poem, The Market Economy.
friday morning, i’m up, craig’s asleep. no wait, saturday night, craig’s in nyc and i’m in kansas city. i do dishes and start a pot of coffee. i avoid thinking, just move my body, wash this plate, rinse it, put it over there. now wash that mug, rinse it, throw it through the window, no set it on the paper towel. break it, break it, break it. just set it down and go outside, it’s beautiful, look at the sky. see the moon, you like the moon, remember? yes, what else? breathe, smell the earth, smells like spring doesn’t it? a little, like a garden. feel the air, it’s not so cold, take off your coat. it feels good, what now? this, just sit here for a moment. this.
so i sit. take a walk. where? the park. when you get to the park, you should run. in boots? just run. where? just run straight until it hurts in your chest. then what? you’ll be breathing heavy and crying. great. wipe your face, catch your breath and ask yourself what you want.
none of that happened.
i didn’t go out side. i didn’t see the moon. i didn’t run. i just stood in the kitchen, it was quiet, it hurt. i set the mug down on the paper towel.
More concerned with shape today as I walk, squares specifically. They are talking to me, jumping out at me. I like what they say, so confident! I take no pictures, instead I record the sound I hear when I notice a square. It started out detailed like gray square tile is Miles Davis and ended up
At the library now, sitting by a window, framed by it, I see my reflection and I look unhappy. I am unhappy and I’m tired of feeling this way. I think to myself, what’s the common denominator here? What’s the constant? I see my reflection again. I am the constant. Okay, so it’s me. Me + the world = unhappy? Is the world so bad? Am I? Looking out the window again, I see my reflection and the world out there beyond it. I see the sun and the sky. They are just things that exist, not happy or sad, just there. Maybe that’s the goal, just exist, just be here.
twilight hour. sky is cobalt. black branches against it. silhouettes looking for the moon. nothing is right or even close. the parkway is empty. i can see my breath in my apartment. it is somber and silent in a way that is completely american. between the two holidays. between the presents and the promise of a new year. my mind is occupied by my own private tragedies. all the tragedies. we make so many. if only we could talk to each other. still, it’s wonderful in a way. the fight. the fight in the dark that leaves us trampled. remembering. sick but satisfied. looking out for something extraordinary. waiting.
i’m walking, a december night, the first real cold, a black sky. i see the bright rectangles of apartment buildings, life inside. life outside too, the manor men shuffling around, clueless, sad. how can i get home? i think you’re there buddy, i say. shivering as i pass, hands deep in my coat pockets, breath visible, thinking of a quote i read about love and freedom, about hatred, thinking about honesty, dignity, desire and what it means to be human, monster and saint all wrapped up in one. i remember the manor men asking about home and i wonder the same thing for myself as i open the glass door at the market and walk inside.
I awoke suddenly. I had the feeling that days had passed but it had only been a few hours. When I sat up to look out the window in my room, I began to come back to life. Hello world, I said as I searched the sky. A full moon shone down on my face then disappeared behind a cloud. I fogged the window with my breath and drew a circle where the moon had been. I waited patiently for the clouds to pass so I could see how well my circle fit with the moon. A truck roared by on Gilham and then everything became quiet again. The concrete sparkled in the moonlight. My circle was perfect.
you live with your parents
your mother likes hot tea
she watches the shopping channel
she talks a lot about your bad decisions
smells like vanilla sugar cookies
and you try to be kind to
the stuffed animals, to the
porcelain figurines and you
try not to write anything
beneath the “imagine” wall sticker
(sex, death, life)
and you try to stay above water
thinking it’s nearly thanksgiving
and there will be turkey
and some laughter
and you walk past your old self
with golden hair and cardigan sweaters
smiling, ignorant blue jello for eyes
thinking, i live HERE, surrounded
by wheat and corn and heavy old ideas
sitting sadly with a white belly
full of casserole and disappointment
stone like, wanting to cry.
mostly disappeared by morning fog
the world is different today
roads end suddenly
the tops of towers gone
this makes me happy
to see the things we’ve made
taken by the slow gray thief
stealing away with our world
i imagine myself out there
my tall body standing on a hilltop
just gray where my head used to be
-drown your self made sorrows in weak gas station coffee.
-discuss politicians, weather and women with ornery old men.
-try on flannel shirts and weird hats at the goodwill store.
-hold open glass doors for cranky old women with crooked faces.
-buy cheap used books with sweet notes written inside the cover.
-feel the sad weight of the small town in your heart, get more coffee.
-drive until you’re lost and park your truck in a grassy field.
-drop the tailgate, sit, sip coffee, read old poems about love & loss, think.
-look up at the ancient sky occasionally and smile knowing things will be better.